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Gators host NCAA match; USF in field, too

By DEBI JONES

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 27, 2000


GAINESVILLE -- The NCAA Tournament seeding may have come as a bit of a surprise for the Florida women's team.

After securing a berth last weekend, the Gators (27-4) were selected as the No. 4 seed in the Pacific Region.

Florida hosts Arkansas-Little Rock on Thursday in the first round.

"It's about what we expected," Gators coach Mary Wise said. "Our hope was to be a top 16 seed and, realistically, we weren't going to be a top eight seed because the teams that have beaten us were going to be higher seeds."

The seeding is the lowest in UF's NCAA Tournament history under Wise.

This is the 10th consecutive appearance in the tournament for the Gators. Last season, Florida advanced to the East Region final where it lost to Pacific 3-0.

Middle blocker Benavia Jenkins said she is not concerned with the seeding but happy the Gators will be playing at home for the first two rounds.

"I'm glad that we are hosting because we can just take care of business at home first," Jenkins said. "Until we finish that, then we'll look on to more things. Right now, our main focus is Arkansas-Little Rock."

Jenkins said advancing to the Final Four would show the Gators deserved higher than a No. 4 seed. The championship game is scheduled for Dec. 16 in Richmond, Va.

The Gators have reached the Final Four five times and are 25-10 in the NCAA Tournament, including a 24-9 record under Wise.

Even though the tournament will represent an entire season of work for the Gators, outside hitter Aury Cruz said she will not change how she approaches Thursday's match.

"We will keep playing like we have been playing all this time," Cruz said.

"We want to play a little bit more aggressive, more together and just play strong until the end."

If Florida advances, it faces the winner of North Carolina and Southeast Missouri State in Gainesville.

South Florida received an at-large bid to the Pacific Region. The Bulls (28-5) face Cal Poly in Los Angeles on Friday. If it advances, USF faces the winner of Georgia State and No. 1 seed Southern Cal.

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